There are now approximately 1.8 billion users throughout the world. They are located in many countries and speak multiple languages. Many of them could be potential customers. But how do you reach them? Not only do you have to speak their language, you have to ensure your website appears where they are searching.
Website globalization can be achieved through market research, translation, localization and optimization. Following this 10 step process will help you rapidly increase site traffic from international search results.
1. Analyze your target market
Market analysis should begin by understanding the answers to the following questions: What geographic markets are you targeting? Who is your target customer? What languages do they speak? What market opportunities exist for which your company has a product or solution?
Identifying and understanding the characteristics and needs of your market segments will help you define the keywords and content you will use to connect, engage and interact with your target audience.
2. Research keywords
For each identified customer segment, you can build a list of relevant keywords using these Google’s keyword research tools:
- Google Adwords Keyword Tool: use the advanced options to research keywords by country and language. Enter a seed keyword term and Google will provide many more suggestions as well as monthly search volumes.
- Google Insights for Search: use this tool to research trends in keyword search demand over time in each of your target countries.
- Google Translator: if you don’t speak the languages, and don’t have the budget for translation services, you could start by translating your English language keywords using Google Translator. Be very careful though as automated translation services are far from accurate.
3. Select the site structure
There are three ways to structure a multilingual site: 1) purchase country-specific domains and set up separate websites, 2) use subdomains for each country, or 3) use subdirectories for each country. If your international marketing is country-specific, then your site should be structured first by location and then by language. If you plan to market to all speakers of a particular language irrespective of location, then you may only need to incorporate language translations into your site architecture. Google’s Webmaster Tools team provides some great advice in this article: How to Start a Multilingual Site.
4. Choose the content
The content you publish for your international audience should be directed by the results of your market analysis and keyword research. Much of the content will be similar to the content you provide for your English-language visitors. However, a few new content pages will most likely be required based upon specific market needs.
5. Translate the content
Professional translation services are expensive but if you are serious about marketing to an international audience, they are a necessity. If you don’t have the budget for a professional service, you can save money by using translation software. But if you do, have a native speaker edit the results to ensure the right message is being communicated.
6. Localize the content and design
In addition to language translation, be aware of the effect of cultural differences on language and web design. For example, content translated into Spanish may need to be localized for each Spanish-speaking country of Latin America. Also, site design elements are much different in Asian countries than those typical of Western sites. Google’s simple design approach, while working exceptional well for western audiences, has often been cited as a major cause of their failure to dominate in Asian markets.
7. Optimize the content
By this point, you’re ready to launch your multilingual content. Now it needs to be optimized for country-specific search engine results. The process of optimizing sites for international search results isn’t a great deal different from optimizing sites in English. Most major search engines use similar criteria for ranking results. However, it’s advisable to utilize the services of an experienced SEO professional in each country to give you the added advantage of insider knowledge.
8. Geo-target using Webmaster Tools
Using Google’s Webmaster Tools, site owners can select settings that tell Google that certain content is meant for users in particular countries. This is fairly straightforward if you have set up multiple country-specific sites. It is a little trickier if you have chosen to use subdirectories or subdomains. In this case, you have to establish each subdirectory or subdomain as a separate “site” within Webmaster Tools. For more information on using the geographic targeting tool, see this video from Google analyst Susan Moskwa: Where in the World is Your Site.
9. Acquire links
Another way of informing Google and other international search engines that your content is targeted at a particular country is to acquire links from sites from that country. The more links you acquire from sites in a given country, the more likely it will be to rank highly in that country’s search engine results.
10. Learn a foreign language
Someone has to respond to the all the foreign language inquiries!